Parrots and Other Pets

“Success is not the result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire.”

We had a few pets in Brazil that would be common to Canada. Our children had a little dog in the interior until it was run over—perhaps by a horse and cart. So sad! Later a little Chihuahua joined our family as a pup and earned the name “Yippy.” That was because he loved to be under our feet. For a while Monica and Vernon had a pair of Guinea pigs—oh yes, and a cat.When we lived in Rio de Janeiro we had a lovely Macaw. I recall that it never learned to say much but it could bite hard enough to make a finger bleed. That makes sense for that bird’s beak breaks open Brazil nuts. This picture is not of our bird for we had only one. We gave it to a neighbor for they kept admiring its beauty. Yes, we gave it away for the custom was to do that when someone was truly enamored of something a person had.

In this picture our parrot is not being nasty but declaring its identity with the human race by nibbling on an ear.  Doris would not be laughing if that parrot was really biting hard. How I wish the colour of the old Kadachrome had not vanished so I could show you the parrot as it was.We had a parrot while in the

Now a little story about another parrot. We were sharing a meal in the home of a missionary couple, the Crawfords in Rio Preto. Their parrot, on its perch,apparently enjoyed our laughter and jokes around the dinner table. It also laughed but it laughed so hard it fell off its perch. On the floor it fluttered its wings as if embarrassed and climbed back up to join in our fun.

We had a parrot when we lived in the interior; its perch was in our carport not far from our bedroom. One word that it learned among others was our daughter’s name, “Monica. “ At about daybreak it would start calling “Monica,” but in a raucous voice that would wake the dead. We needed no alarm clock, to be sure. We left our parrot with a friend when we came home on leave. We had no parrot on returning–a cat had killed it.

Just to show you how our parrot was so very smart, I’ll show you how it handled our mail. Unfortunately I never learned how to translate “parrotese” into any other language. So as a secretary it was useless to us.

I’ve always liked to fish. In the interior I could drive to the Cachoeira de Maribondo, a waterfalls.  The Dourado, the Golden Trout, came to feed in the fast waters. I never had much luck but here is a picture of a Dourado. I don’t remember whether I caught it or bought it but it was great eating. To buy a fish Brazilians would say I bought it with an “Anzol de cobre.” That is, I’d caught it with a “copper hook,” meaning I paid money for it. 




I suppose such a little white lie may not mean much when we come to the great judgement of our life in eternity. However there are other failures more important than a story about a fish. The Bible describes those as sins.  However we can trust in Jesus as Lord and Saviour.  He promises us freedom from guilt. Just think of that–it stands good for now and all eternity.








A Precious Friend

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss you will land among the stars.”

We conducted the funeral for Louis Tustão in the interior village of Neves; that left his wife Dona Olinda no longer able to hold together her family of five children. They were scattered mostly to be taken care of by some of their relatives. But it was of concern to the oldest boy, Louis Roberto da Silva that his sister, Marlene, was to live with an uncle who was an ardent Spiritist. He did not want her involved in the séances so contacted us wondering if we might take her in to our home.

Marlene may be the little one in the arms of Dona Olinda on he left. The hall being remodelled for services were where we first met Marlene and family. Her family was just one of the miracles that came through that simple hall.


We did just that that. We opened our arms to Marlene and it was one of the best decisions we ever made. She was to help with chores in our home and was to get her schooling. We came to love her as one of our own, in fact people who did not know her thought she was our child for she was blond and fair. We treated her as our very own; she was about 13 when she came to us. I’m sorry the pictures we had of her have disappeared over the years.

As missionaries Doris and I were often away in the evenings so it fell to Marlene to care for our children. Monica who was about 8 and Vernon almost 2 years younger. One night as we came home we noticed the lights going out and all was quiet when we came in the front door. Marlene and our children had been having a good time playing together, but we never objected to them not getting their sleep. Instead we appreciated how much they enjoyed each other. We were so glad to have Marlene for when we had lived in Rio, we had a bad experience with a maid that involved our children. Ouch!

There is one job we gave to Marlene was to prepare the prawns for cooking. We bought those huge shrimp fresh at a local market but the cleaning gave Doris an allergic reaction. In any case we did like the veins taken out and then sliced into two for cooking. Yes, they were that big and Marlene made it possible for us to have the best seafood on our table.

Brazilians love warm fresh-baked bread especially for their breakfasts–you may have seen those long slim loaves with the delicious crunchy crust. Yummy! So Marlene fit into this pattern by going early each day to a nearby bakery and bringing back warm bread. So the five of us sat around the kitchen table to “tomar of café.” The exact translation is to have a coffee but for us it was breakfast time.

Afterwards Marlene, Monica and Vernon went down the same hill with Marlene going one direction to middle school and our children the other direction. I’ve written somewhere how Vernon hated that school because of his teacher, for she taught with a ruler in her hand.

During our time in São Paulo, Monica took music lessons and since Marlene had a talent for music, Monica passed on those lessons. Many years later when Marlene was attending a large Baptist church, she took part in the ministries of the congregation, and It was great for us to discover she became one of the church organists! Wow.

After we left for furlough—or as they call it now, “home assignment” Marlene was able to continue on with her education till she ended up with her teaching certificate. Even when those years were hard, she has done so well. Time goes by with changes, one of which for her was open heart surgery. Another that is much more pleasant, is to see her children grow up so that now she with her husband can enjoy their grandchildren.

Marlene writes, “These are my beautiful grandchildren. César Augusto is one year and half and Fernanda is just six months old. I send these remembrances with all of my heart.” That picture is from 2010 so without doubt much has changed.

The time Marlene was with us was not that long but so many “saudades,” nostalgia  still remains with us. Beyond that Doris and I thank God that the little we did for Marlene has blossomed into a wide ministry. Such small seed was sown and yet it continues to bring wonderful fruit for the Kingdom of Jesus.


The Snake Farm

“Perseverance is a great element of success. If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Snakes alive! The cardboard box of poisonous snakes was carefully held and tipped enough so the contents slipped over the edge of a low wall into the ditch. The snakes had been shipped in from an area of the Amazon basin and though the snakes were quite lethargic after a long trip yet no doubt they were dangerous. This all happened at Butantan, the world famous snake farm and the ditch where the snakes were put surrounded a protective shelter.

Those snakes were part of the research branch of Butantan and where specialized anti-venom medication is shipped around the world. Oh my, more yet! Add on to the snakes, poisonous frogs and spiders. With the research that began in 1901, Butantan has worked to eliminate a large number of tropical diseases and now continues its wide-ranging work. In this photo a worker shows us how to extract venom from a snake.

Our family were at the Institute with Jim and Florence Mannoia doing a bit of a touristy thing. But when those snakes came slithering out of the box, Florence gasped and turned away.  Jim took her hand and directed her to another area–she might have fainted because of her snake phobia.


I’ve few pictures of the Mannoias but here is one with Doris, Florence and some of our families. The remote beach where our families spent an overnight was so isolated that we thought it gave us total protection. That night we guys slept not far from the van on the sandy beach while the ladies and children curled up in the van. But all our pots, pans and dishes were stored under the van—and they all walked off. No snakes but in any case, we were safe. I mention that, for so often I had read in Brazil of thieves killing any possible witnesses before they steal something.

Once again I recall my dad’s Irish saying, “The Lord looks after children and fools.”

So where have those snake made their homes? They are most common in the river basins and swamps that are plentiful across Brazil. But they do appear in small areas of grasses and trees—I’ve written a blog about snake, in days past, at our seminary. This picture with Monica and an ant mill might have had snakes close by.

I am sure there were snakes in the area of Paraná State where our missionary friends, the Kaspersons, worked. Snakes never bothered them mostly because they never bothered the snakes.





But when it comes to the snake or serpent to which Satan is compared, he will pester us with temptations till our lives become painful and warped. He bothers us no matter what. (Genesis 3:1) But everyone desiring deliverance can find it in Jesus. John the apostle says, “…as Moses lifted up a serpent in the wilderness, (numbers 21:8) even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” That is the end of the story about snakes and the snake. Victory is in sight through Jesus.

Fabulous Beauty in Brazil

“Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.” William Shakespeare

We went to Brazil as missionaries but received more than we ever gave. The beauty of that people and land added to our faith in the eternal Creator. He had his finger in the creation process from billions of years ago to the sustaining of life in every flower and animal.

There is beauty in every city but none can quite match the city of Rio de Janeiro that is squeezed between the bay of Guanabara and the Atlantic. As we look across Rio from the foot of the statue of Christ the Redeemer on Corcovado Mountain, we see in the distance another mountain. This is Sugar Loaf. It is startling to see planes taking off from the airport near downtown and watch them fly over the bay, much lower than Sugar Loaf. Then there is the world famous Copacabana beach with other beaches like it that stretch for untold miles to the North and South.


Then there is the Iguaçu Falls that is at the juncture of Argentina and Paraguay with Brazil. From its three Kilometer precipice, at times the quantity of water going over it exceeds both Niagara and the Victoria combined. As our family watched from beside one of its waterspouts, we noticed boys about halfway down jumping from a rock to the swirling waters below. They were just doing it for the fun of it.


The evolution of Iguaçu goes back thousands upon thousands of years and though so much older than Rio or the country itself, yet I am amazed at the beauty. Nature didn’t have to be that way for the creator could have made all in multiple tones of black or brown. The joy of the act of creation and our joy of being involved, if no more than just watching—all come together in praise and adoration.

During the time we lived in Brazil, beautiful birds such as the parrot or macaw could be bought and even exported. That has now changed for then we had both of these birds. When in the interior of São Paulo, our parrot used to hear us calling Monica, so at daybreak it would begin to screech out her name. Our macaw was a lovely blue and yellow color but there is something else I remember. It had powerful jaws; one day it may have been irritated when I was feeding it—perhaps too late for its liking, it bit my finger bringing blood. No wonder! Those jaws could break open Brazil nuts.


I have pictures of flowering trees and plants but all my pictures were taken at that time were on slide film that with time the colours have changed and faded. So this picture is not of our Macaw but it shows something of the beauty of those birds.

But nothing compares to the children in Brazil for their beauty and the potential of what their lives may become. This group from a church planting in a slum was given guitars and lessons hoping all along that music and the presence of Jesus will build their lives to success.

Whether living in Brazil or not, when I stop to ponder the beauty in the world, my praises are lifted up to our God that is our Creator. I’m trusting that anyone who reads this blog will know the sense of worship that comes from contemplating the wonders around us.


Always at Home

“There are two ways of getting home; one of them is to stay there.” G.K. Chesterson in “The Everlasting Man.”

There is no way to ever escape home. That is my personal conclusion, as I’ve written down my memoirs, for again and again I’ve seen much of my life being played out from the home where I was raised. That said, I rejoice in the home created by Doris and our children, Monica and Vernon. Often I’ve told you about Doris’ life and ministry. Now I choose this blog to be about our children and how they adapted to wherever they lived.

Doris and I were at Asbury Seminary in Kentucky when Monica was born, and in this rare picture she bides her time. Doris went back to nursing on nights a month after her birth so that between us—work and classes we were able to look after her. She was as good a baby I’ve known otherwise we’d have needed other living arrangements.


In Brazil everyone took to Monica with her blonde hair and light skin, and that included our fellow missionaries, the Campbells who had grand-children in Canada. Here she is with Murdo from the short time we were together out in the city of Rio Preto.







Just months after Vernon was born in Rio Preto he was making friends with Brazilians his age. Since he was born in Brazil, I suppose their outgoing ways attached to him as well.

We all enjoyed Barra de Tijuca an isolated beach on the edge of Rio, There our family enjoyed the sand and surf but none more than our children.


Our children had the joy of attended a private school run by Baptist friends. They made a positive fuss about every student’s accomplishments. This tells the story of Vernon’s graduation from kindergarten.

Monica wasn’t taking lessons at this age but her enjoyment of music continued on when she took lessons and later on when she even played the cowbells.

There were fun times, good times when our children were on furlough with us. This picture was taken on a lake in the Gatineau out from a friend’s cottage. This board is one I made, one on which they had a good time with me towing them behind the Hawley’s boat and motor.


As I look back over our time with our children as they grew up, the words of Psalm 23 comes to mind, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want; he makes me to lie down in green pastures.” Surely our shepherd has led us to lie down in green pastures.

Getting the Clothes Clean

“Just because the past didn’t turn out like you wanted it to, doesn’t mean your future can’t be better than you ever imagined.” Anon

We found it complicated getting our clothes washed and clean in Brazil. We never did have hot water but putting the clothes on the line helped with the stain from the dust coming from the red soil And we needed to beat the stain that came with the hot weather–well, at times it was just very hot.

Here is Doris using the windlass at our well in Neves. We soon moved on to an electric pump.


We had electricity but not a washing machine. Doris scrubbed the clothes by hand for awhile but soon needed help. For a while our maid took the clothes home to wash. It was the only solution and that was what those who could afford it did in “coffee country.” As Doris and I talked about the washing we had a lady come in and do the washing. The picture tells the story.

The result of red dust in the air meant all my white shirts had a pink tinge. Why use white shirts? Well, professional people wore white shirts on work days, on special occasions and in fact, most of the time. For me that included more than Sunday services. Some of those shirts also had small holes that were not noticeable—they came about by riding on the wood-burning trains with the open windows. Imagine those sparks quickly wakening a person out of a deep sleep.

As you can imagine the “by hand” washing was hard on the clothes. Doris just said to me as I was getting my details straight, “I couldn’t put up with that.” Besides she objected to paying for every single item. So we saved from our small salary, or was it from gifts from family in Canada? In any case we bought a washing machine, a wringer washer back then in 1957. It was possible to install it in our home in Neves for we allowed for the plumbing as we did a re-building project.

By the way, I’m not complaining about the salary under the Holiness Movement church. We knew early all about the challenges we would face and we are thankful for the leadership that did so well to support a huge mission program with a small membership. But when union came with the Free Methodists it seemed we had died and gone to heaven.

During our second term in Brazil we bought an automatic washer but the rented house in São Paulo did not have the plumbing for a washer. So we found a spot for it in an oversized toilet in the backyard. We then had to carry the baskets of clothes down a set of stairs to get to the washer. With cold water there was much soaking and scrubbing of the items that were really dirty.

In any case the clothes line was close by. And if the Jobuticaba tree in the yard had fruit, a handful added to the interest in getting the clothes done. Of course if a person did not have a clothesline, then the grass served as a place to dry clothes. But a gear broke in the machine shortly after the end of the guarantee. That is the way most guarantees work but in this case I bought the parts and was able to fix it.

When thinking of “washing” a person might recall all the ritual washing laid out in the Old Testament. The good sense of that is obvious—washing saved people from a multitude of diseases. Of course there was also the symbolism—the spiritual cleansing coming from the worship of God.

My beautiful picture



But then I came across the words of St. Paul, “…he saved us, not because of the righteous things we have done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”

That washing is both a mystery and perhaps more difficult for many than getting those pinkish white shirts of mine clean. St. Paul then makes clear that this washing is offered by “Jesus Christ our Saviour.” With that addition the story of washing clothes in Brazil is complete.

Hope For The Children

Hope for Children

“You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubts; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear; as young as your hope, as old as your despair.” Ullman

The Olympics in Brazil were a smashing success before the world for the government swept clean Rio’s streets of the homeless, drug dealers and children who lived on the streets. Many of those children were abandoned by families that could not feed or clothe them. After a few months on the streets those same children become almost impossible to rehabilitate.

Here is a group of youth that came to help us from the Rio Preto Presbyterian church to help us work with children in this hall and other towns. These wonderful folks had a deep concern to teach children the Christian way.


We never knew about children being abandoned when we lived in the interior but we were struck hard by the poverty they faced. What can I write as I look back to the wonderful children we met who faced a bleak future on those coffee ranches? I’ve often wondered what became of those to whom we ministered. Most children had little opportunity to get more than a few years of education with absenteeism a central problem.

Here children from a Sunday School class show off the New Testaments they have received. The word of God often goes home to the parents who receive the Word and become CRENTES–believers.


The answer we carried was the Gospel of Jesus: a new life through his grace leads to hope and often to changes in lifestyle that opens up a better life. When parents have no hope they may abandon children; when children have no hope the answer often is violence and drugs. The promise of the Gospel is that if anyone is born into the family of God, that person becomes a “new creation” with new hope and ambition. And if a person cannot escape the pain of this life, the Gospel at least offers consolation for all eternity. It is no small thing to be sure of Eternal Life

Here Lucille Damon teaches a song to children while Doris Kenny plays the portable organ.

Whether it was a missionary or a Brazilian wishing to plant a new church, the work often began with the children. When the children were excited, the parents often began to attend out of curiosity. The love shown by the leaders often brought help for the children who later became both community and church leaders. The Gospel song says it so well, “A Wonderful Saviour is Jesus My Lord.”

Fred Lester as a faithful VISA volunteer to our church in Brazil for many years poses with some of the children in one of our churches.

I look to the church of Jesus Christ and His salvation to provide hope for these children and others. Our church offers everyone the chance to minister through its international program for children. Check it out! Help change the lives of Brazilian children.